How to improve male fertility

There are lots of things you can do as a hopeful dad-to-be to help your partner have a healthy pregnancy and baby.

There is always a lot of focus on a pregnant person’s health and wellbeing. But if you are a man planning a pregnancy, it’s vital that you are healthy too.

Looking after your health can improve your fertility (ability to get someone pregnant) and the future health of your child. 

Top tips for planning a pregnancy for men

  • Quit smoking.
  • Cut down your alcohol intake to no more than 3-4 units a day.
  • Get tested for STIs (anyone who has had unprotected sex, even once, may have an STI). 
  • Lose weight if you have a high BMI (Body Mass Index).
  • Have unprotected sex every 2 to 3 days throughout the month. 
  • Keep your testicles (balls) cool (slightly below body temperature) by:
    • avoiding hot showers and sitting in hot baths
    • avoiding saunas, jacuzzis or sitting for a long time with a laptop on your lap
    • wearing loose pants and trousers
    • not cycling and/or sitting down for long periods.
  • Eat 5 portions a day of fruit and vegetables, which includes walnuts.
  • Exercise for at least 20-30 minutes, three times a week.
  • Talk to your doctor if you have sickle cell disease or thalassaemia, or if you are at risk of being a carrier. 
  • Avoid recreational drugs, such as cannabis, cocaine or anabolic steroids. 
  • Speak to your GP or pharmacist if you take any prescription medicines that you think could affect your fertility.

Smoking and male fertility

Smoking can make it harder for you to get your partner pregnant. It can:

  • cause male sexual impotence (inability to get or maintain an erection)
  • reduce the quality of sperm
  • cause a lower sperm count
  • affect the sperm’s ability to swim (motility).

Stopping smoking can improve your sperm count and quality

Passive smoking

Second-hand smoke is dangerous. Exposing a female partner to second-hand smoke can affect their fertility, making it harder for them to get pregnant.  

Pregnant people who breathe in second-hand smoke are more likely to have:

  • miscarriage
  • stillbirth
  • premature birth. 

Find out more about the risks of second-hand smoke.


Research into the risks of passive smoking with e-cigarettes is ongoing. But some health professionals recommend avoiding vaping around pregnant women, babies and children.

Helping your partner to quit

If your partner is also a smoker, you making efforts to quit will help them stop too. Most people trying to stop smoking relapse because they have been with other people who smoke. 

You can help make sure your partner stays healthy, and lowers their risk of pregnancy complications, by not smoking around them.  

It can be very hard for some people to quit smoking, but there is support. The NHS has more information about how to stop smoking.

Alcohol and fertility

Drinking more than 14 units a week can:

  • lower your testosterone levels
  • reduce sperm quality 
  • cause problems getting an erection 
  • cause a low sex drive (loss of libido).

This can all make it harder to get your partner pregnant. 

The Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists says the safest thing for your partner to do is not drink any alcohol at all if they are actively trying for a baby.  

You can support your by stopping or reducing your alcohol intake. 14 units of alcohol is about 6 pints of average strength beer.  

Weight and fertility

Your BMI (Body Mass Index) is a measure that uses your height and weight to work out if your weight is healthy.  You can calculate your BMI here

Being overweight or obese (having a BMI above 25) may affect your fertility. 

The best way to get closer to a healthy BMI is to eat a healthy diet and be more active. If you struggle to manage your weight, speak to your GP for advice and support.

Nutrition and fertility

You can also improve your fertility by eating a healthy, balanced diet. Eating well will help keep your sperm in good condition. 

Eating a portion of walnuts (at least 42g) a day has been shown to help sperm motility (ability to swim). 

Sexually transmitted infections (STIs)

If you think you may have a sexually transmitted infection (STI), it’s a good idea for you (and any partners) to have a check-up before you start trying to get pregnant.

Sexually transmitted infections (STIs) are passed from 1 person to another through genital contact or unprotected sex. This includes vaginal, anal and oral sex, genital touching or sharing sex toys. 

It doesn’t matter how many times you’ve had a sexual experience or how many people you have had sex with. Not all STIs have symptoms, so a sexual partner may have had an infection without knowing it. 

It’s good to get checked (and treated if needed) for an STI before your partner gets pregnant because:

  • Some STIs can affect male and female fertility, making it tough to get pregnant.
  • Some STIs can cause health problems for your partner and your baby, during and after pregnancy. 
  • Some treatments for STIs are not suitable if your partner is pregnant. 
  • Your partner will not be offered tests for all STIs during their pregnancy.

Sperm temperature

The testicles (balls) are outside the body because they need to be kept slightly cooler than the rest of you to produce high quality sperm. The best temperature for sperm is slightly below body temperature. 

Try to keep your testicles cool.

  • Don’t have a warm laptop on your lap for long periods.
  • Avoid saunas or hot baths.
  • If you sit still for a long while, get up and move around.
  • If you work somewhere hot, like a kitchen, take breaks outside as often as you can.

Wearing snug pants or tight trousers makes your testicles hotter as it pushes them closer to the body. Try wearing loose underwear.


Stress can lower yours or your partner’s sex drive. This may reduce how often you have sex. Severe and ongoing stress can also limit sperm production. 

Trying to get pregnant can be stressful, especially if you have been trying for a while or have had a previous loss. Try to take time to relax. 

The NHS has more information on managing stress


Caffeine is found in coffee, tea, some soft drinks and energy drinks. It’s also found in chocolate. 

There is not enough evidence to say for certain that caffeine can cause fertility problems in men. 

There is some medical evidence that men and women consuming too much caffeine while trying to get pregnant can increase the risk of miscarriage.

High levels of caffeine during pregnancy have also been linked with pregnancy complications such as:

  • low birth weight
  • miscarriage
  • stillbirth. 

It’s a good idea for you and your partner to limit your caffeine intake while trying for a baby.

The Royal College of Obstetricians & Gynaecologists recommend that you limit your caffeine intake to as little as possible during pregnancy. This means less than 200 milligrams (mg) per day (the equivalent of two mugs of instant coffee).

Use our caffeine calculator to check your caffeine intake.

Sickle cell disease 

Sickle cell disease is a group of inherited health conditions that affect the red blood cells. The most serious type is called sickle cell anaemia.

Sickle cell disease is most common in people who are Black-African or Black-Caribbean.

Your GP can do a blood test to check for sickle cell disease or to see if you (or the baby’s biological mother) are a carrier of the gene that causes it. It is best to do this before a partner gets pregnant. 


Thalassaemia is the name for a group of inherited conditions that affect a substance in the blood called haemoglobin.

It mainly affects people of Mediterranean, south Asian, southeast Asian and Middle Eastern origin.

A child can only be born with thalassaemia if they inherit faulty genes from both parents.

Your GP can do a blood test to check for thalassaemia or to see if you're a carrier of a faulty gene that causes it. It is best to do this before a partner gets pregnant. 

When to get help with fertility

Most couples will get pregnant within a year if they have regular sex and don't use contraception.

But women become less fertile as they get older, which means it can become more difficult to get pregnant. The effect of age on men's fertility is less clear. 

Speak to your GP if you haven’t been able to get pregnant after a year of trying. Make an appointment before then if your partner is aged 36 or over, or there is a known medical reason for your fertility problems. 

The GP will ask you about your lifestyle, health and how long you’ve been trying. They may also do some tests. They can suggest ways to improve your fertility or they may refer you for fertility treatment. 

Learn more about your options for fertility treatment. 

More help and support

Fertility Network UK provides support and advice for people with fertility issues, including HIMfertility support groups for men.

The Fertility Foundation UK offers financial assistance and emotional support for people on their fertility journey.

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NHS. How can I improve my chances of becoming a dad?  (Page last reviewed: 15 May 2020 Next review due: 15 May 2023)

NHS. How long does it usually take to get pregnant? (Page last reviewed: 8 September 2022 Next review due: 8 September 2025)

NHS. Low sex drive (loss of libido).  (Page last reviewed: 8 June 2022 Next review due: 8 June 2025)

NHS. Passive smoking. (Page last reviewed: 5 May 2022 Next review due: 5 May 2025)

NHS. Screening for hepatitis B, HIV and syphilis. (Page last reviewed: 8 March 2021 Next review due: 8 March 2024)

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Review dates
Reviewed: 04 March 2024
Next review: 04 March 2027